For citizen Ilechukwu Uchechukwu, his nine-year ordeal in Singapore came to a happy end recently as the Singaporean appeal court decided his case and, with a unanimous 4:1 decision, acquitted him of the grievous drug-peddling charge that has kept him on the death row since 2011, thanks to the diligence of a government psychiatrist that earlier found that he was suffering from post-traumatic stress symptoms (PTSS) when his statements that were false were recorded.
Uchechukwu had travelled in November 2011 for a business trip with a luggage that he was to hand to a third party in Singapore. The luggage was later discovered to have contained some banned narcotics. Even though the luggage had passed all airports checks in Nigeria and Singapore, when the recipient took possession of the bag and was accosted by police and searched, drugs were found hidden in the luggage.
Trials upon trials went on but suffice it to say that the courts of the land were diligent enough and patient enough to work with government psychiatrists to determine the culpability of the suspect and eventually found out the truth about the allegations against him, leading to his acquittal.
We rejoice with Uchechukwu for his good fortune and praise the Singaporean authorities for their diligence and patience in trying and retrying the case till the truth was established. This is truly a thing of joy not just for the individual and his family but the whole country.
However, this incident must serve as a lesson to both individuals in the country, agencies of government and the Nigerian judiciary as well. At the individual level, it must be noted that international air travel has laid down rules, chief among which is that individuals must make sure they pack their own luggage and be certain that prohibited items are not packed in. Most countries, especially in Asia, have the death penalty for drug traffickers and pleas of innocence about content of luggage are no excuses.
The diligence of the government psychiatrists must be commended and must be a lesson to our own system. We doubt whether such due diligence is always exercised by our health ministries that ought to work hand in hand with the judiciary and law enforcement for the good of the people. The psychiatric evaluation is an integral part of the criminal justice system and Nigeria must not be different.
The judiciary in Singapore must be commended too for its painstaking efforts to try and retry the case till justice, which must be availed any human, irrespective of his/her nationality, gender, race or creed was seen to have been done. For a case as sensitive as this to have dragged on for nine good years and justice seems to have been done is victory for the rule of law and diligence of prosecution and defence too.
The news from Singapore comes as there are reports of Nigerians being repatriated from some Middle Eastern countries like Lebanon, with tales of woe, as most of them are reporting a series of unjust treatments from their hosts. This must worry our country’s foreign affairs ministry. The country must be seen to be protective of its citizens locally for the other countries to care for their human and civil rights.
We commend the government of Singapore but we still appeal that such due diligence be accorded some other suspects while prosecuting them for various other crimes. Justice to anyone must be seen as victory for humanity.
Mr. Uchechukwu Ilechukwu must thank his exceptional good fortune as his names already coincidentally imply in his Igbo culture. He must let his life be a lesson to others by making sure his freedom becomes a lesson for others who might fall into his unfortunate circumstance. Having a second chance at life in this extraordinary way must be given value by the life he chooses to lead henceforth.